On the 23rd of May, 1937, four thousand Basque children arrived in Southampton. They had fled from Spain to escape the Spanish Civil War. The children, together with the 95 women teachers, 120 female helpers and 15 priests who accompanied them, spent their first two months under canvas near Southampton. From here they were dispersed to a variety of accommodations throughout the country. Two homes in South Wales took in the refugees: Sketty Hall, in Swansea, and Cambria House in Caerleon.

There was no financial aid from the government, so the National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief undertook to raise ten shillings (50p) a week per child for maintenance.

Shortly after World War II began, the military moved into Cambria House and the Basque children were moved to Vale View, Mill Street. This was a far smaller house; the move was only possible as some of the children returned to Spain and others were placed in private homes. No sooner had they made Vale View their home than the military took this over! The children now squeezed into 18 Cross Street - nowadays Pendragon Guest House.

Mrs Fernandez was one of those in charge of the children. She did not return to Spain after the war, but stayed in Caerleon. In fact she made 18 Cross Street her permanent home! Caerleon obviously suited her, as she lived to the age of 97. The children she had cared for did not forget her, she continued to receive correspondence from them right up to her death in January 2001.

In order to raise funds for the children's maintenance, a monthly newsletter was published and sold for tuppence (1p) a copy. The "
Cambria House Journal" contained articles written by the children and staff. Luckily for us, copies still survive in Newport Reference Library. You can explore extracts here, these powerfully tell the children's story, now part of Caerleon's history.

Left, plaque erected on Pendragon House in October 2004. It was commissioned by the Basque Children of  '37 Association: UK, and arranged through Caerleon Civic Society.

Right, front cover of the November 1939 edition of the Cambria House Journal . The picture shows the children on the move again - this time to 18 Cross Street.

By kind permission of Newport Reference Library

Cambria House Journal

[ Nov 1938 ]:

[ Dec 1938 ]:
"The Children At Cambria House Need"  &  "Engagements for December"

[ Jan 1939 ]:
"Aeroplanes"  "An Essay In English"

[ Feb 1939 ]:
"Our Football Match In Cardiff"

[ Mar 1939 ]:
"Our Paper"

[ Apr 1939 ]:
"Our Education In Cambria House"

[ May 1939 ]:
"Correspondence Page"

[ July 1939 ]:
"Two Years In Caerleon"

[ Aug 1939 ]:
"The Last Two Years"  "What Is War? What Is The Use Of It?"

[ Oct 1939 ]:
"Air Raid Precautions"

[ Nov 1939 ]:
"Editorial""Air Raid Shelters"  "Repatriation"

[ Nov 1939 ]:
"A Message To All Our Friends"  from  Jack Williams  (Hon. Secretary)

[ A Selection of Journal Front Covers ]

[ Photographs ]

[ Article from the South Wales Argus ] published shortly after the death of Mrs Fernandez.


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